Cents into National Final

Shane Rampling’s side see of Welsh champions to book place in final

RLC Regional Final

St Albans Centurions 34

Valley Cougars 16

ST ALBANS Centurions survived a stern physical challenge from Welsh champions Valley Cougars to reach the RLC Premier Grand Final. A try ten minutes from time by full-back David Kramer ended the Cougars’ hopes after they had fought back from 16-0 down in a game featuring six sin-binnings as passions threatened to boil over.

The Centurions built what looked to be a commanding lead with three tries in the opening quarter of an hour and seemed to be cruising to Haslams.

The Welshmen dropped the opening kick off and Wisbech’s finest, Rudi van der Merwe skipped over to score with barely a minute on the watch, Kramer’s goal attempt drifted wide. The referee was working hard to keep a lid on matters as the tackles flew in from both sides and, after receiving four straight penalties, the Centurions were in again, Ollie Fountain’s dancing feet taking him through a back-peddling defence, Kramer converting.

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Tempers boiled over on the restart and Paul Maloney and Troy Broadbank were sin-binned. The Centurions than added to their lead as Kramer finished a planned move from a scrum with a well-worked try that he converted himself for a 16-0 lead and it seemed a matter of how many St Albans would score.

The Cougars settled down and played their best rugby of the match with the forwards running hard and finding holes.

That direct approach brought tries from Steve Bray and Mark Jones, one of which was converted by Paul Enamuelli to put them right back into the game.

A fierce half came to a close with Broadbank in the bin for a second time along with Mike Herbert for the Cougars and Fountain for the Centurions all for separate incidents.

Having withstood heavy Cougars pressure at the end of the half, the Centurions were caught napping at the start of the second and Rhodri Morris pinched a try from close range to level the scores but parity did not last long.

A sloppy play the ball on the Cougars line cost them a penalty and six points as van der Merwe dived over from the tap to score, Kramer converting from in front of the posts.

With over half an hour to go, there was plenty to play for and an absorbing contest developed with the Cougars having plenty of possession in the Centurions’ quarter but without quite being able to break through.

Their best chance came with just over ten minutes to go but Morris knocked on diving for the line.

The Centurions immediately made them pay and a good set took them the length of the field before Matt O’Rourke’s kick was deflected by a defender to Kramer who juggled the ball before touching down.

He converted the score himself to put two scores between the sides.

Valleys pressed again but Liam Williams lost the ball over the line and again the Centurions went the length of the field to score.

A long downfield kick saw Fountain’s chase put pressure on the Cougars’ winger who lost the ball in the tackle presenting Adam Kal with a gift four points.

Kramer’s goal put the game beyond the Cougars who kept battling away and managed to prevent van der Merwe from claiming a hat-trick with some strong defence in the corner.

However, the Welshmen were left to rue errors and lapses of discipline that meant that the good quality rugby they played went unrewarded.

The result gives the Centurions the chance to collect their second Harry Jepson Trophy in four years at Derby next weekend.

CENTURIONS: David Kramer, Ollie Fountain, Aaron Brown, Darren Westhead, Rudi van der Merwe, Adam Kal, Matt O’Rourke, Roy Dube, Shane Rampling (Capt.), Keir Bell, Andy Lake, Adam Kambouris, Paul Maloney.

Subs: Mark Edwards, Mike Hollister, Joe Shaw, Nick Woolley.

Tries; Rudi van der Merwe (1, 45), Ollie Fountain (10), David Kramer (15, 70), Adam Kal (75)

Goals; David Kramer 5/6

COUGARS: Steve Williams, Mark Powell, James allen, Mathew Williams, Kevin James, Paul Enamuelli (Capt.), Mike Herbert, Mark Jones, Rhodri Morris, Steve Bray, Troy Broadbank, Liam Williams, John Sanigar.

Subs: Chris Holcombe, Liam Thomas, Sam Coomber, Lee Jenkins.

Tries; Steve Bray (24), Mark Jones (27), Rhodri Morris (41)

Goals; Paul Emanuelli 2/3.

Man of the Match: David Kramer

Referee: Ian Curzon